Mar 22, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House eyes April breakthrough on Ukraine and Israel aid

House Speaker Mike Johnson, wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and red striped tie, walks through a Capitol hallway.

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is telling colleagues in both parties that he plans to "immediately" take up votes on foreign aid when the House returns from recess in April, the lawmakers told Axios.

Why it matters: It's a potential breakthrough after months of Johnson refusing to hold a vote on the Senate's $95 billion Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan aid bill.

  • But Johnson also faces personal peril: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed a motion to vacate against him on Friday and told reporters she would trigger a vote to remove Johnson if he puts Ukraine aid on the floor.
  • Democrats have suggested they will likely save Johnson regardless — but that a Ukraine aid vote would secure their support.

What they're saying: "I just spoke personally to the speaker about bringing Ukraine aid to the floor, and he assured me: shortly after the break. Like, immediately," Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) told Axios on Thursday.

  • A House Republican who had lunch with Johnson earlier this week told Axios the votes will happen "quick thereto" after the recess.
  • "We're going to have a vote ... I know that leadership is in support of a vote," said Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.).
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Mike McCaul (R-Texas), asked whether Johnson plans to hold foreign aid votes after the recess, told Axios: "That's my understanding, yes."

The backdrop: House members in both parties have been pushing hard in recent weeks for the House to vote on any foreign aid bill.

  • A bipartisan group of members introduced a $66 billion military assistance package to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan that also includes border policy changes to appease Republicans.
  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who is leading that bill, has introduced a discharge petition to try to force a vote on it, while Democratic leadership has done the same with the Senate bill.
  • Neither petition is close to having the 218 signatures to force a vote, however.

What he's saying: "Over the next two weeks, we will ... take the necessary steps to address the supplemental funding request," Johnson said in a statement.

  • "We have done important work discussing options with members — such as the REPO Act, loans, additional sanctions, and energy exports, among other measures — and are preparing to complete our plan for action."
  • Johnson said he welcomes "all ongoing member deliberations over the next two weeks as the House works its will on this matter."

Between the lines: It is unclear in what form the foreign aid will come to the floor — and that could be key.

  • Johnson has floated splitting Ukraine and Israel aid into separate bills rather than voting on a single, sprawling aid package.
  • He also said foreign aid likely to come up under suspension of the rules, a process that requires bills to pass with a two-thirds majority.
  • One senior House Republican suggested the package could be split into as many as five pieces — Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, border and reimbursing the Pentagon — but that could be a tough sell for Democrats.

The other side: Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, indicated he heard a similar timeline from Johnson but is skeptical a successful Ukraine aid vote will come to fruition.

  • "His plan is to come up with a plan. He hasn't got one," Smith told Axios. "We'll see. He's got to have something to vote on."

Axios' Juliegrace Brufke contributed reporting for this story.

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